Do You Know Juko Nayoshi?
The search for a Japanese WWII POW
I've been in touch with a U.S. Air Force veteran who has requested my help. He was on
Okinawa in 1945-1946 and recounted the following incident to me:
"While on Okinawa, shortly after the war was over in 1945 - I received a 3' x 5' oil painting from
a Japanese POW who was a member of a work detail assigned to the NCO club that I was in
charge of on Kadena Air Base. The POWs were working outside when the "Officer of the Day"
came by and got into an argument with one of the POWs. . .
During the argument, (I don't know what the problem was) the OD started shoving the POW
around while shouting at him. The POW drew back his fist, but did not throw a punch. When
this happened, the OD came over to me and demanded my .45 pistol. I gave it to him, whereby
he went back to the POW, cocked the weapon and point-blank pulled the
trigger. . .
The pistol did not fire, mainly because I made it a practice not to carry it loaded. The officer
came back to me and
demanded the magazine, which I carried in my pocket. I told him no way was I going to give it
to him. He threw my clean pistol in the dust and stormed off swearing at the top of his voice that
I would be court-marshalled for not complying to a direct order.
Shortly thereafter I was told to immediately see the commanding officer. As I walked to the
HDQs building, I figured at least Leavenworth [prison] was closer to home. When asked by the
CO my side (of the story) - he smiled and told me to forget it.
A couple of weeks later the POWs showed up with a beautiful 3' x 5' oil painting and
ceremonially presented it to me. I didn't know at first why, but finally it came to me. Although I
could not understand a word that was spoken, one could tell that the presenter was very grateful.
I wish that I had gotten his name, but a kid of 20 years of age never thinks of these things. . .
There was a name on the painting 'J NAYOSHI'"
This American veteran is trying to find Nayoshi to thank him for the many years of joy he has
received from this painting. Can you help?
The following is a color reproduction of the painting:
The information we have so far:
- The artist is Juko Nayoshi, who was a well-known artist on Okinawa and possibly also on
mainland Japan. His art work was studied by students at a college of the arts on Okinawa, but
nobody knows Nayoshi's whereabouts today, or that of his family.
- An American friend living in mainland Japan was able to tell us that the kanji character on
the mountain is the character for "dai" or "big" in English. Two "dai" characters, one other
character, and two other pictographic shapes are on five mountains around Kyoto City. The trees
have been cleared and each character is actually a series of firepits or bonfire platforms. For the
"Daimonji" festival every July they are prepared and ignited in the evening, so the city is
surrounded on three sides by the fiery shapes. One "dai" is on the north side of the city and one
is one the east. Since the Kamo River runs north to south through Kyoto, the "dai" in the painting
would have to be the one on the east.
- The Shrine in the background is most likely the Gion Shrine, which is located in the Shijo
area of mainland Japan. The "shi" of Shijo means four or fourth, hence your description of the #4
bridge. The bridge would be known in Japan as the "Shijo-bashi", bashi being the combining
form of hashi(bridge).
- The lanterns are a certain type which are set out in the springtime, cherry blossom time, for
the "Miyako-odori", a kind of festival which features geisha dancing at the Minami-za Theater,
which is located even now in Shijo by the Kamo River. Miyako-odori is still performed as well.
- However, the woman in the painting is not actually a "geisha". Her dress, particularly her
obi (sash) identify her as an "Oiran", which is a courtesan, or prostitute if you will, of a much
higher status than a geisha. Oiran are not normally associated with the Gion area, but rather with
another area of Kyoto further to the west of Gion. It seems unusual for an Oiran to be pictured in
a painting of the Gion area, but perhaps this might be done by someone not completely familiar
with the customs and habits of the Kyoto area.
Do you recognize either of the men in
this photo? One of them could be Juko Nayoshi.
If you know who Juko Nayoshi is, his whereabouts or how to get in touch with any member
of his family, please contact J.A.